Having worked for decades helping Big Pharma market drugs to physicians, I was privy to extensive strategic documents outlining a drug’s “path to success.” And given the number of Confidentiality Agreements I signed, I’m not about to share any secrets. I’m just establishing some credibility for the rest of this post, which I hope serves as a warning to the general public.
Marketing strategies ensure that the money invested in researching, advertising and distributing a prescription drug is recouped; over and above that, profits for future investment are anticipated. When there is a large group involved (say, for blood pressure medications, which target some 40% of adults globally), people get very excited about the profits. Eyes get wide, people rub their hands together in glee, and top executives start planning how they’re going to spend their bonuses.
We’re not talking peanuts here; Pfizer’s anti-cholesterol drug, Lipitor, has earned over $125 billion as the world’s top-selling drug. With so much at stake, these companies don’t want anything to rock the boat, and they’ll do what’s necessary to keep the waters calm. (Lipitor, by the way, was intended for short-term use, until a patient got their cholesterol levels under control, presumably in tandem with diet and exercise. But then physicians started to leave patients on it for life, despite there being no evidence to support its use long-term, and even knowing the potential side effects, including dementia!)
I’m not anti-drug, I’m anti-abuse. Prescription drugs can reduce our health risks and, in most cases, improve our collective quality of life. There’s no denying that. Because of Lipitor, millions of lives have been saved from the ravages of high cholesterol. But every drug has side effects, every drug has a financial cost, and not all drugs act the same way in each individual. Consumers should always be wary of heavy-duty drugs, and your average GP may not have all the answers.
Now the Alzheimer’s market is heating up. Big Pharma is targeting an aging population, an increase in people presenting with memory loss, and the possibility to earn huge profits with a prescription drug solution… which may or may not do anything to help, and can do harm. Think that’s crazy? Well, that’s just the way the industry works. We are all human guinea pigs for prescription drugs, even though they have to pass rigorous clinical testing and are strictly regulated.
Corporations just don’t have the patience to wait decades before they recoup their costs, and there are people literally dying for solutions, so the push is always to get it “out there” as soon as possible – even without long-term studies to tell us what might happen down the road. Thalidomide is a classic cautionary tale; launched in 1957 to pregnant women to minimize morning sickness, it was only when mothers began giving birth to children with deformed limbs (10,000 infants, only 50% survived) that the dots were connected and the drug taken off the shelf.
The industries that service Big Pharma, including marketing and PR agencies, also get very excited about profits; I’m sure you can imagine how that works. The agency gets a million-dollar budget to spend, which allows them to lure in more expensive talent, splash money all over the media, and become big shots in their own backyard. It’s a capitalistic chain reaction, with everyone wanting a piece of the pie. I still remember how aggressively we pitched and fought over these huge accounts, and the lengths we went to to get and keep these key clients.
All this to say….
The strategies are the product of very clever minds, and guaranteed to fool even the most skeptical of us. Which is why you have to be on guard. In terms of the Alzheimer’s market, this is probably how it’s going to play out, and I think everyone should be aware.
FIRST: They’re going to start talking about early detection of Alzheimer’s in younger people. You’ll see headlines everywhere similar to the one below.
Scientists identify potential early biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease
NEXT: They’re going to start flooding the media with articles about early-onset Alzheimer’s, and young people “at risk” of getting symptoms.
Younger Adults With Alzheimer’s Are Key To Drug Search
FINALLY: They’re going to suggest that anyone over a certain age (but still younger than 60) “talk to their physician” if they have concerns about getting Alzheimer’s (and who doesn’t?) to see what can be done.
THE NEW OFFENSIVE ON ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE: STOP IT BEFORE IT STARTS
Physicians, of course, will have been coached by their pharma reps to offer an existing drug (which hasn’t proven effective in people diagnosed) as a way of possibly warding off the disease… but with no guarantees. It may or may not work. Read this recent article in Newsweek for more insights into what amounts to a very powerful argument. Even if the drug doesn’t work, fear will prevail and profitability will be ensured.
So now you know.
You should also know that even more exciting results are happening in the areas of nutrition and lifestyle. These non-drug strategies can help us be healthier and possibly avoid dementia altogether, by living better and avoiding visits to the doctor altogether. There’s no huge profits in this for anyone (except maybe for the makers of coconut oil and supplements), so you might not read about it as much, but it’s equally valid and a lot less harmful in the long term. For more about natural strategies and solutions, go to either Dr. Perlmutter or Dr. Bredesen, who have emerged as the two heroes in this area.
5 thoughts on “Lesson #27: Be Aware, Be Wary”
Why is there no “hooting, howling, leaping in the air with massive high fives” button just when you need one? If I were the least bit cynical, I’d say you perfectly timed your coming out 😛
Immensely grateful and sharing widely.
I know, you must have had to sign a gag agreement. I agree one hundred percent.
I am about to share your details of the latest big pharma offensive on my Blog. Many thanks for sharing the news – as worrying as it is!
Thank you for sharing! It’s a bigger message around “more hugs, less drugs” that many of us are trying to disseminate.
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Lorrie, I just shared this post here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/170599870303233/permalink/245597942803425/